Long-time Bray hoteliers John and Conor Duggan of the Martello Hotel have introduced a new hotel experience to Ireland, so ITTN Ireland editor Joan Scales asked them about this unique concept.
Where did the idea come from for a self-service hotel?
As owners of the Martello Hotel on Bray Seafront for two decades we were aware of the massive demand for hotel rooms in Bray. But we wanted to offer guests a new and different experience. We set about researching different hotels around Ireland and the rest of the world to see what trends were out there that had not yet come to Bray.
Through this research, they saw that the trend of mobile key cards was growing among the larger hotel chains, but could not find any hotel in Ireland offering this service. This set in motion their idea for a completely staff-less hotel, that would offer guests complete control over their stay, along with a unique holiday experience.
Are there other examples around the world of similar type hotels?
Some of the world’s largest hotel brands such as the Marriott, Hilton, MGM Resorts and Disney offer mobile key cards to customers and a lot of other big-name hotels are following suit.
There are some hotels in Ireland that also offer staff-less check-in, but this is done via a check-in machine at reception where guests receive their key. As far as we can tell, we are the only hotel in Ireland that offers the mobile room key and one of the only hotels in the world that run with no staff on site.
When did you open and what happened during the pandemic?
Firefly opened in February of 2020. We initially had a soft launch and invited friends, family and staff from our other businesses to stay at the hotel so we could get their feedback of the whole experience. We had a few guests stay before the pandemic hit but unfortunately we had to shut down in March 2020. What followed was a series of openings/closures in line with government guidelines. We were delighted to finally re-open our doors in June 2021 and begin welcoming guests to the hotel.
How do guests make bookings?
Bookings for the hotel can be made online via our website (fireflybray.ie) or through booking.com. Bookings are made in the same way as any hotel, the real difference comes as their stay draws nearer. Guest will receive a pre-stay email with information on how to download the app which will house their ‘key’ for Firefly.
How do they gain access to the hotel?
Guests download an app to their phone, which will contain their mobile key for their stay. They check-in online ahead of their stay and their key will become active on the day of arrival. At the front door and the bedroom doors, there is a scanner, that guests hold their mobile key up to in order to gain access.
How are the rooms furnished?
A lot of thought went into the layout and décor of the bedrooms. We wanted to create something that was warm and welcoming so guests could chill out and relax after a day of exploring.
This started with the beds which are all pillowtop beds with microfibre duvets, perfect for snuggling up in after a long day. Each room also has a Smart TV with Netflix. There are Nespresso machines in each room which are stocked by local supplier, Wicklow Roasters.
In the bathrooms, we tried to be as sustainable as possible with no single use plastic. Every bathroom also has a rainfall shower.
The walls of the rooms are adorned with a variety of artwork from Irish artists, as well as our taglines like ‘Adventure Awaits’ and ‘Stay Wild’ to remind guests to make the most of their stay with us.
What would you say is the style and design of the hotel?
We had a lot of fun coming up with the style of the hotel with our designers, Brennan and Stevens. We wanted to make it different than any other hotel in Bray, with a style that was eye-catching, modern and a little bit quirky.
The main idea that we wanted to promote through the design was the sense of adventure that comes with every holiday. We incorporated this into our brand with taglines such as ‘Adventure Awaits’ and ‘Stay Wild’.
This is a running theme throughout the hotel and bedrooms, using artwork on the walls and in items such as our ‘Field Guide’ which provides information to guests about the hotel and things to do in Bray.
We introduced a lot of colour, to make the hotel and rooms as welcoming as possible, with pops of bold colours on the bedspreads, the furniture and artwork.
Where are your guests coming from mainly?
Due to the pandemic, the majority of our guests have been coming from Ireland. It has been a mix of people traveling the short distance from Dublin for a night away and people travelling from the rest of Ireland and using Firefly as their base to explore Bray and Wicklow. We are looking forward to expanding our target market to international travellers, once it is safe to do so.
Are there any issues with not having staff on-site? Is there a way to contact someone if required?
We have had no issues with not having staff on site. If there is any form of problem, guests can contact our sister hotel, The Martello, via the intercom at the front door, the phone in their room or by calling the main hotel number. Someone is always on hand to answer any queries.
What is the reaction from your guests?
We have had an overwhelmingly positive response from our guests. They love the unique nature of the hotel and the different experience it brings. The style and décor of the hotel has also been commented on. With guests loving the Irish artwork, and especially our ‘Stay Wild’ neon sign in the entrance hall.
The location has also received very positive feedback with guests appreciating being so close to the seafront but away from the hustle and bustle that can come with it so they can enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep.
When are rooms cleaned?
Rooms are cleaned every morning by housekeeping.
How many rooms does the hotel have?
Firefly has 18 bedrooms that include single, double and triple rooms.
How much are the rates per night?
Rates start at €99 per night.
Are there discounts for longer stays?
We do offer discounts for longer stays. Anyone wishing to stay for a long period or for large group bookings, they can email the hotel directly at [email protected] for more info. We also offer a 10% discount for bookings made 14 days or more in advance. Firefly Hotel.